The Travels of Marco Polo

by Marco Polo

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How does The Travels of Marco Polo describe Kublai Khan's postal system?

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Kublai Khan's postal system operated by way of little forts established every three miles between post-houses. In each of these forts lived people who acted as the Emperor's foot-runners. They would go from post-house to post-house delivering important messages to the next foot-runner in the chain.

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Marco Polo is suitably impressed by the ingenious postal system established by Kublai Khan, the great Mongol Emperor. On his orders, a vast network of post-houses has been set up. At an interval of three miles between each post-house, there is a little fort with some forty houses around it. It is in these forts that his foot-runners live, the men who deliver messages from one post-house to another.

Once they've received their messages, they quickly travel on foot to the next post-house. Each foot-runner wears a large belt with bells attached, which means that he can be heard approaching from some distance. This allows the next foot-runner in the chain to get ready for his leg of the journey.

When the foot-runner arrives at the post-house, whatever he's carrying with him is taken by another foot-runner, who receives a slip of paper from a clerk, who's always on hand for this purpose.

Once this is done, the next foot-runner sets off to run his three miles. This way, the Emperor quickly receives messages with news from places that are ten days' journey away. The postal system is all the more impressive considering the huge size of the Emperor's kingdom and the vast distances that would normally need to be traveled.

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